Inside Tori's Notebook is a weekly series where Tori re-opens her game notebook to look back at her notes, questions and observations from the Falcons most recent game. Tori breaks down her thoughts and gives her analysis on what happened, and why it's notable. Inside Tori's Notebook is sponsored by Microsoft Surface.
A STATE OF CONFUSION -- As I loaded up on the bus to leave the Superdome on Sunday following the Falcons 21-18 Ioss to New Orleans, I wrote down one word in my notebook: "Conflicted."
For every good thing I thought the Falcons did on Sunday, I could find something not-so-good that they did, too. The 'ole double edged sword conundrum if you will, when a positive is counteracted by a negative.
The defense comes up with two really solid defensive stops in the final quarter. DeAngelo Malone notched a tackle for a loss. Rashaan Evans, a sack. A.J. Terrell and Jaylinn Hawkins both with clutch PBUs.
... But they also fell behind a 14-0 Saints lead in the first quarter, giving up five explosive plays of over 15-plus yards a pop in the first half. Two of the five resulting in the touchdowns that gave the Saints a two-score lead in the first place.
Drake London makes a stellar one-handed grab as the second quarter begins, one of his seven catches on the day. It was one of a few plays that perfectly displayed the connection he and Desmond Ridder have.
... But he fumbled a fourth down catch in the fourth quarter that cut short the Falcons final offensive stand.
Tyler Allgeier earned his first 100-plus rushing yard game, averaging 8.2 yards a carry after a 139-yard performance. The run game as a whole produced 231 total rushing yards against the Saints defense.
... But the offense remained unbalanced, with the pass game accumulating just 97 receiving yards. Allgeier alone had 42 more rushing yards than the Falcons passing attack had receiving yards.
Then, there's Ridder himself, making his very first NFL start.
The Falcons were clean offensively. They didn't commit any pre-snap penalties. Ridder got the call in. The offensive line knew their assignments. Receivers knew their routes. Ridder was clear and sharp in the huddle. The initiative and leadership needed to lead an offense were there. He was poised.
... But, he'd still grade himself out to a C-minus or a D because the execution in the pass game was lacking. He came out too amped, per Arthur Smith, and tried to be too perfect early, per Ridder himself. He was 13-for-26 on the day. He made his fair share of rookie mistakes, and he has a lot to improve upon.
In the end, regardless of how I looked at the game, it always morphed into a coin toss, one that truly kept flipping back and forth in my mind. One side showed me a team that displayed significant potential and promise for a bright future with young talent. The other side showed me a team that struggled to execute in ways that are strikingly similar to how they struggled all year.
So, by the game's end, and even now as I sit at my desk at the Falcons facility in Flowery Branch writing this very notebook, I do feel conflicted.
When I evaluate this game, do I hang onto the good side of the coin, or the not-so-good side? Which side do I give more power to? Can I look at Ridder's performance - for example - and see that there is potential for growth? That he doesn't have to be changed, just refined?
Is it possible to be content with the good and the not-so-good if only to believe that this is still the beginning of what Terry Fontenot and Arthur Smith want to do in Atlanta? It is OK to feel OK, even during stints of growing pains?
Does feeling conflicted discount what can be?
I don't have the answers to these questions... yet. Perhaps that's why I'm writing them out.
I like to think that one day, whether that day comes this year or the next or even (gasp) the next year, that I can feel contentment even after conflict when it comes to the Falcons and their overall trajectory.
Until then, Sunday's loss leaves me in a state of confusion. I have more questions than I do answers. I want more from the Falcons, but perhaps more won't come until later.
Can I be OK with that?
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